North Belle Vernon woman's 2012 highlight: Streisand concert in Brooklyn
When it comes to a personal year-in-review, Marlene Nicolaus has no trouble pinpointing her highlight of 2012.
The North Belle Vernon resident on Oct. 11 attended Barbara Streisand's “Back to Brooklyn” concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she hobnobbed with the rich and famous before and after the performance.
Nicolaus' son, David Perozzi, a writer and producer who has worked at ABC News and CNBC, arranged the whole thing.
“It was a magical night because I was out of my realm,” Nicolaus said. “I've been to a lot of shows because of my son - The View, Regis and Kelly, and Rachel Ray - but I think seeing an icon, which to me, she is, and having all celebrities around me. That was pretty special.
“She really has a fabulous voice and she hasn't lost it,” Nicolaus added about Streisand. “Not only that, but I think she's a very good person because she donates so much of her time and money.”
What else made the night was the graciousness of Nicolaus' host, Elliot Gould, who is best known for playing Trapper John in the 1970 movie "M*A*S*H" that spurred the classic television series.
In recent years, he has starred on "Friends" and in the "Ocean's Eleven" series. Gould was married to Streisand from 1963 to 1971.
“We met Elliot and his girlfriend, Susan, at the Barclays Center and we stayed with him the entire evening,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here?' but Elliot was just fabulous.
“People were coming and asking for his autograph and to take pictures and he was so kind to everybody. I asked him if he minded, because they were approaching him every 10 minutes, and he said, ‘Of course I don't mind. Without these people I would be nowhere.'”
The after-party was in a separate room at the center. One word from Gould, and Nicolaus and her son slipped past the guards and into the soiree. Later, Gould would admit he didn't exactly relish the star treatment.
“I thought this was very unusual, but he told me he would rather be at a farm with all the animals than where he was that night,” Nicolaus said.
“He isn't the kind of person to enjoy those kinds of things and be in the limelight.
“What amazed me was the fact that he was so nice to everybody, not just me. I thought, ‘Wow.' I guess celebrities get tired of that life, too.”
Nicolaus saw other famous personalities like Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters. And she talked with some of Streisand's relatives, including sister, Rosaline Kind, and son, Jason Gould.
But Nicolaus was simply star struck by Streisand, who had just performed publically in her native borough for just the second time. Nicolaus had just sat seven rows back from the diva in the cavernous arena. Now she was about to approach her.
“Growing up, there wasn't anybody I looked up to like her,” Nicolaus said. “She was there right in front of me. I was ready to talk to her when Donna Karan (a designer) came and said ‘Come with me,' and whisked her away. The thing that made me laugh is (Streisand) was eating a big sandwich while she was talking to everyone.”
Gould topped off the night by taking Nicolaus and her son home in his limo.
“They said, ‘How are you getting back?' and we told them we were taking the subway and Elliot said, ‘No, you're not. You're going in the limo,” she said.
“So Elliot told the driver we were his guests and to drive us back to the city. That was something going home in a limousine.”
One of the other highlights of the week was meeting Anderson Cooper of CNN. At the time, David Perozzi was working as senior producer for Cooper's now-defunct talk show.
Nicolaus attended a taping of the show, seated in the front row. Cooper showed her his office and organized a mini photo shoot.
“Afterward, he came took me by the hand, everybody was looking, and took me back and took four pictures of him and I,” Nicolaus said.
“He was so, so nice to me. I went in his office and we talked about his mom. His mom has been on his show so many times and that's when he got the best ratings. He had a big cutout of Honey Boo Boo somebody gave him that he kept in the office. He really likes her.”
The only setback that week was Nicolaus was gimping around on what was later determined a broken foot. She suffered the injury at a New York salon after it went numb and she fell, but never got treated until coming home.
“My son said to me, ‘I noticed something about you as you get older. You're moaning and groaning a lot more,'” Nicolaus said, laughing. “I kept saying, ‘My foot is killing me,' and my son kept saying, ‘You'll be fine.' I guess to kids, the mother is always infallible.”
A Monessen native, Nicolaus is used to adapting to new surroundings.
At age 13, her father moved to Long Beach, Calif., and she visited him often, actually attending high school on the West Coast for a brief spell.
“The high school I went to out there was like a college,” she recalled. “It had something like 100 buildings and was nothing like Monessen. I darted back and forth to Long Beach, but I always came back here.”
Nicolaus graduated from Monessen in 1959, but her moving ways weren't done. She soon married Alfred Perozzi, of Monessen, and the couple moved to Long Island, N.Y., for her husband's job with the Grumman Corp., where he helped build lunar modules for the NASA.
After five years, the company relocated the Perozzis to New Mexico, then back to New York again.
The couple had two sons — David and Dr. Michael Perozzi, now a podiatrist in Charleroi — and daughter, Lisa Scagline of Monongahela.
Alfred Perozzi passed away nearly 25 years ago.
Marlene has since remarried Leroy “Lee” Nicolaus, her husband for the past eight years. She has a stepdaughter, Leeann Nicolaus, a teacher at the Pittsburgh School for the Deaf and Blind.
A retired hostess and restaurant manager, Nicolaus keeps busy with her seven grandchildren and often travels with her husband, who enjoys ventures to Las Vegas.
She plans on spending New Year's Day at home while celebrating her 71st birthday.
“Being born on Jan. 1 kind of makes me feel special. My grandmother's birthday was on Christmas Day and I think she got the shaft,” Nicolaus said, laughing. “I'm really blessed. I've gone to these places and I've met a lot of these people through (David) and it's been a thrill.”
“But that night (at Barclays) … it was a night to be remembered.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.